In news that surprises absolutely no one, junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa has declared for the NFL Draft. Per his Instagram post:
Epenesa came to Iowa as a legacy player, his father Eppy Epenesa (his actual name is Epenesa Epenesa, which is just fantastic) played for Hayden Fry in the 1990s. But unlike his father, who had to walk on and earn his spot with the team, A.J. was one of the most sought-after players in the nation. Thanks to his strong Iowa ties, Kirk Ferentz was fortunate to land him, A.J. being only the second 5-star player to play at Iowa.
In his true freshman season, A.J. saw significant playing time behind Parker Hesse, earning 4.5 sacks and being named to the All-Freshmen Big Ten team. As a sophomore, he once again lined up behind Parker Hesse, and despite never starting a game, notched 10.5 sacks, leading the Big Ten (alongside Chase Young). Finally, as a junior, he started every game and it won’t come as a surprise to you that he recorded 15 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Actually, forced fumbles might be the most impressive statistic of his career as he finished with 9. For comparison, Adrian Clayborn only had two over four seasons.
Fun fact: Jadeveon Clowney also finished his collegiate career with 9 forced fumbles.
Heading into this season there was significant talk about Epenesa going pro if he finished strong. Well, he finished strong, and he’s now projected to be a top 15 pick by USA Today and top 25 pick by NBC Sports. Whoever gets him will be in for a treat, as Eppy’s combination of size, strength, and speed is something we rarely saw as Iowa fans. In fact, I’m comfortable saying I’ve never seen anyone like A.J. Epenesa in an Iowa uniform.
Farewell, A.J., thanks for the memz and it was a joy watching you play.
Get paid, young man.